Report: most countries will fail to meet Millennium Development Goals by 2015

According to the recently published Global Monitoring Report on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), most countries will fail to meet the goals by 2015, despite many countries being on-track to halve extreme poverty by that time.

The authors of the report propose a 6-point plan to further efforts to meet the goals, including integration of the development and environment agendas, and more and better aid. They also suggest that the currently somewhat bleak situation could be addressed if “advanced” countries lived up to their commitments as part of the 2002 Monterrey Consensus in which they committed to, among other things, foreign official development aid (ODA) at a level of 0.7% of GNP.

Canada’s ODA expressed as a percentage of GNP is currently about 0.3%; the last time it even came close to 0.7% was in the mid 80s, when it hit 0.5%. According to the Canadian Council for International Cooperation, the federal conservatives’ 2007 Budget took no significant steps towards increasing ODA to 0.7%.

In related news, a recent Ipsos-Reid poll found that Canadian youth spend a higher proportion on foreign aid than the government does. In fact, they spend 5% of their income on donations to charitable organizations that work outside of Canada. The comparison is inexact, but still this is pretty amazing.

So much for the stereotypes about selfish and lazy youth. A Statistics Canada study last year found that, on average, Canadian youth do 7.1 hours of paid and paid labour a day, accounting for both weekdays and weekends. That’s a 50 hour week.

US war robots in Iraq aim guns at human masters

Kind of makes you feel all warm and fuzzy insideDespite this minor setback, people in the US military were able to keep their cool, and not come to extreme conclusions like, “maybe we shouldn’t put guns on robots.”

Though these friendly looking little guys were pulled from operation, there is no indication that the MQ-9 Reaper airborne wardroids (aka bringers of death from above) have been retired.

As usual in the US military, clear heads prevail.

*UPDATE* apparently this was a bit of an internet hoax, and the guns did not in fact accidentally aim at humans… according to the defense contractors who made the robots–whose credibility, incidentally, I do not doubt for one instant. Anyone who is wise enough to put guns on semi-autonomous robots is surely to be unquestioningly trusted.

UK scientists further discredit link between climate change and solar activity

Following evidence last year from Mike Lockwood at the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in the UK that there was no link between the sun’s magnetic activity and global temperatures, the “sun activity” theory received a further blow from research findings by a team from the University of Lancaster.

The U Lancaster team found “no significant link between cosmic rays and cloudiness in the last 20 years,” leading them to endorse the IPCC, who last year stated that since the 1970s, the “contribution of humankind’s greenhouse gas emissions has outweighed that of solar variability by a factor of about 13 to one.”

What is RSS?

The fact that RSS has been around since 1999, yet we still feel the need (and with good reason) to put “what is RSS?” next to our RSS feed buttons (at least, on websites for less technologically-included audiences) suggests that something’s amiss.

As Brian Clark at Copyblogger says, “the public at large either doesn’t care about RSS, or doesn’t know they’re using it”. Does this mean we should try harder to promote RSS, or rather that we should stop worrying about explaining it so much and trust that people who will benefit from it will, in general, begin to take advantage of it?

I was at an online marketing for non-profits session the other day in which the presenter explained RSS as a technology that “emails news to your homepage.”

At the time, I thought this was wildly inaccurate (which it is), but really, does it matter all that much? The outcome of that session will probably be that some people who are interested will go explore RSS more and maybe ask their tech people to look into it, and others to whom the idea didn’t appeal will let it slide for now.

The fact that most explanations or RSS fall largely on deaf ears probably means we should stop trying to push RSS per se, and present it in ways that make it as easy to understand and as simple to use as possible — without feeling the need to nail down exactly what it is, how it’s different from/similar to Atom, or whether it means “RDF Site Summary” or “Really Simple Syndication”.

Canada on intellectual property rights — not so bad after all?

See Michael Geist’s post on the recent World Economic Forum report on “network readiness”. Although, overall, Canada doesn’t fare so well, it ranks above both Japan and the U.S. on intellectual property (IP) protection.

Two areas where we come up quite short are, of course, the lack of competitiveness in our broadband and mobile networks (we have among the highest prices in the world), and also, interestingly, on the amount of paperwork it takes to start up a business. For more on the sorry state of Canada’s broadband access, see David Crane’s piece on Canada’s broadband infrastructure.